|Angela Merkel, on vacation, reading "Tyrant."|
Tyrant, Shakespeare on Politics, was released on May 8, 2018, and even at that point it was easy to see what kind of President Trump was going to be, as if that were not previously evident. Though he never names the President, his thesis is clear, with every chapter and every would-be emperor described, accurately for the most part, with precisely the same language many have used to describe Trump.
He calls Jack Cade, leader of a populist uprising in Henry VI Part 2, a “loud-mouthed demagogue” possessing an “indifference to the truth, shamelessness, and hyperinflated self-confidence.”
Shakespeare's Richard III “divides the world into winners and losers” and “is not merely indifferent to the law; he hates it … because it gets in his way.”
Macbeth has “a compulsive need to prove his manhood, dread of impotence … a fear of failure.” These psychological cues explain his “penchant for bullying, the vicious misogyny” and “explosive violence.”
Surprisingly, Greenblatt spends few words on the character of Julius Caesar, who, of all of Shakespeare’s monarchs, has been the one most often directly compared to Trump, for all of each man's vanity, poor health, and weakness for flattery at the same time ferociously protesting their own god-like inability to be manipulated.
Instead, this author focuses, as the play does, on the character of Brutus, and his desire to preempt disaster and assassinate Caesar before he attains absolute rule. Shakespeare’s lesson, it is clear, is that violent overthrow, no matter how pure the intent, is never pure, and impossible by design; an oxymoron in action.
“Real-world actions grounded on noble ideals,” Greenblatt suggests, “may have unforeseen and ironic consequences.”
|Carole Healey as Julius Caesar|
Photo: Roger Mastroianni
(Great Lakes Theater, 2019)
“The attempt to avert a possible Constitutional crisis, were Caesar to decide to assume tyrannical powers, precipitates the collapse of the state. The very act that was meant to save the republic turns out to destroy it. Caesar is dead, but by the end of the play Caesarism is triumphant.”As it happened, the Mueller investigation came to a close without touching Trump nearer, finding that while a foreign power certainly offered Citizen Trump political assistance during the 2016 election, there was not definitive proof that he accepted it.
It should surprise no one who has been paying attention that we are now mired in a nearly identical circumstance, with definitive proof that President Trump himself has solicited political assistance from (at least) one foreign power for the 2020 election.
Impeachment now increasingly likely, looking into the works of Shakespeare may be a direful predictor of future events.
Great Lakes Theater presents "Julius Caesar" directed by Sara Bruner at the Hanna Theatre through November 3, 2019